Whether you prefer them in a salad or a martini, olives are an oval-shaped fruit that are known for their unique taste and high nutritional value. If you've ever wondered whether you can share olives with your favorite four-legged friend, the answer is yes—they are not toxic to dogs, and can be shared in small quantities.
Of course, as with many "human" foods, there are a few risks associated with feeding olives to your canine companion. Here's what you need to know if you're thinking about sharing olives with your pup.
The Benefits of Olives for Dogs
Though olives are rich in various vitamins (A, E, and K), minerals, and antioxidants—as well as healthy fats and proteins—that are important for human health, dogs that are being fed a complete and nutritionally-balanced diet don't necessarily need these additional nutrients. In humans, olives are believed to help lower cholesterol and blood pressure as well as prevent heart disease and even certain cancers. They are also considered to improve digestion, soothe allergic reactions, and reduce inflammation.
But while your pet would likely have to consume larger amounts of olives in order to reap these benefits (which wouldn't necessarily be safe), that doesn't mean that olives can make a healthy occasional snack for your pooch. It's believed that the essential nutrients found in olives do have the potential to help boost your dog’s immune system and reduce inflammation, improve their vision and bone health, and even help ward off heart disease and various cancers.
Olives are also associated with heightened brain function, so there's an argument for feeding olives to help boost Rover's cognitive health. And though they are high in fat, it's a monounsaturated fatty acid that's healthy for dogs and humans alike, and has the potential to reduce cholesterol levels while promoting a healthy skin and coat for your pup.
Choosing Olives for Dogs
An essential component of the Mediterranean diet, olives are grown around the world, and there are some 2,000 different varieties. If you're deciding between black and green olives, pet owners should know that both varieties are OK for pets.
However, you'll only want to choose plain, unsalted olives as a snack for your pooch, and only offer olives in strict moderation. Feeding your dog too many olives will not only add unnecessary calories to your dog’s diet and put them at risk for weight-related issues, but there's always the chance that olives may cause GI issues such as stomach pain, vomiting, or (most likely) diarrhea in some dogs.
Additionally, olives are often prepared in garlic or oil, as well as other seasonings, which are not safe for dogs. It's probably needless to say, but you should also never offer your pup an olive that was floating around in an alcoholic beverage, as alcohol is toxic to canines. Stuffed olives are also off-limits, as they often contain anchovies, blue cheese, or feta cheese—all of which aren't pet-friendly.
Whenever possible, opt for organic olives—they may be more costly, but if you plan on sharing them with Fido, they're the safest bet for his health.
Potential Dangers of Olives for Dogs
Although olives themselves aren't toxic to dogs, their pits can be hazardous. Like many other pitted fruits, the pits found inside olives can pose choking or other obstructions in dogs, as they can block airways or get lodged inside their intestinal tract. Additionally, since olive pits are hard, biting down on them can potentially lead to cracked teeth and other doggy dental dilemmas.
Generally speaking, when offering your four-legged friend any foods that aren’t specifically prepared for the canine variety, moderation is key—a few olives (sans pits) will be fine to offer most dogs, as plain, pitted olives rarely cause health issues for canines. However, olives that are either canned or pickled often contain large amounts of sodium, which is unhealthy for dogs—it can lead to dehydration, high blood pressure, and even toxicity.
When offering your dog an olive for the first time, only start with a tiny piece or two (and get your vet's OK first) and observe him or her for any adverse effects. If your dog manages to steal a significant number of olives (especially if they contained the pits), pet owners should contact their veterinarian for guidance on what symptoms to look out for.